Calls for police to seize phones used illegally by drivers

Police could be given the power to seize mobile phones being illegally used by motorists, the Police Federation roads policing lead suggested.
  
Police could be given the power to seize mobile phones being illegally used by motorists, the Police Federation roads policing lead suggested.
 
Constable Jayne Willetts said the measure could act as a deterrent. “As technology is rapidly progressing, I fear our legislation is already behind the times,” she said. “Is the seizure of mobile phones or their Sim cards – along with an education system – the way forward, combined with fines? I don’t know, but it’s a question worth asking.”
 
It comes as figures reveal a record number of drivers were caught during a week-long police crackdown on illegal mobile phone use behind the wheel. Some 7,966 fixed penalty notices were handed out during a week-long campaign in November – the highest figure yet for a seven-day National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) crackdown on “distraction driving”. The totals for the three previous initiatives were 2,690 in May 2015, 2,276 in September 2015 and 2,323 in May 2016.
 
Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said a “blunt and brutal” measure may be necessary to tackle the issue. “It would be a massive step to give police the power to mete out summary justice in this way. But with far too many people still flouting the law maybe it will take something as blunt and brutal as, ‘you use it, you lose it’, to get the message across.”
 
Transport Minister Andrew Jones told the roads policing conference in Hinckley, Leicestershire, he wants to make using a phone behind the wheel “as socially unacceptable as drink-driving”.
 
Ministers have already said they want to double the punishment for motorists caught using a handheld phone while driving to a six point penalty and a minimum fine of £200. Those convicted of causing death by dangerous driving or careless driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs could also a face a lifetime in jail under the government proposals.
 
 

Vodafone’s Indian unit in merger talks

Vodafone has said its Indian business is holding talks about a major merger which would create the country’s largest telecoms firm.
 
Vodafone has said its Indian business is holding talks about a major merger which would create the country’s largest telecoms firm.
 
It said Vodafone India, the country’s second biggest mobile operator, was in negotiations with Idea Cellular, India’s third largest network. There was “no certainty” a deal would be agreed, Vodafone added. Shares in the UK telecoms giant rose about 3% on Monday, making it the biggest riser on the FTSE 100 index.
 
India’s leading mobile networks are embroiled in what analysts have described as “a vicious price war”, started by the arrival of a low-cost rival offering free voice and data to customers. Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, together with current market leader Bharti Airtel, have been forced to cut prices by Reliance Jio, a new operator owned by the country’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani.
 
Vodafone was forced to write down the value of its Indian business by 5bn euros (£4.3bn) in November amid the intense competition. The firm has looked to spin off Vodafone India, but said at the time it would wait for the market to stabilise.
 
The merger talks with Idea suggest “Vodafone is taking the Indian tiger by the scruff”, said Neil Wilson, an analyst at London brokers ETX Capital.
 
“India has become a trouble-spot for Vodafone, with losses there severely hurting the rest of the group,” Mr Wilson said. “Indeed a vicious price war in India means the group could post its first operating loss in 10 years in 2017. The Idea tie-up looks like a way to limit the casualties on either side. Something had to be done and this merger might be the way to strengthen Vodafone’s hand in the Indian price war.”
 
In its statement on Monday, Vodafone said a merger with Idea would enable it to take the India unit off its books and receive a dividend from the new business. Shares in Idea Cellular, owned by the Aditya Birla Group, have surged 26% on confirmation of the merger talks. More than ten telecom operators are battling it out to attract the custom of India’s one billion mobile phone users. That has forced firms to keep tariffs low – significantly impacting their profitability. And the entry of Reliance Jio last year – has made matters even worse.
 
You can’t avoid its high profile advertising campaigns here – pushing introductory offers of free voice calls and internet to cost conscious consumers. The deep pockets of Mukesh Ambani mean many expect rock bottom prices even in the long run, forcing rivals to slash their charges further if they want to stay in the game.
 
 

Three enables Embedded WiFi across Android and iOS

Three has today announced that embedded WiFi is now available for Android and iOS users.
  
Three has today announced that embedded WiFi is now available for Android and iOS users.
 
This means that even when you don’t have mobile signal, you can simply connect to a WiFi network and use your phone for calls and texts wherever you are in the UK. 
 
iOS users will simply need to have the latest software version 10.2 and above and then, once installed, you manually go in to settings – phone – WiFi calling and switch it on to activate it.
 
Android users simply need to have a compatible device* and then once they have the latest software update it automatically installs and is activated for use without having to change any settings.
 
It removes the need for the previous Three InTouch app that was able to also route calls and texts through WiFi. However all the activity was separate which led to confusion on call logs or messaging conversations, as you had to check two apps for any communications. InTouch users will now receive a pop-up message informing them that they can now delete the app.
 
 

Apple Watch ‘not syncing’ in cheap deal

Some customers who purchased the latest Apple Watch for £69 ($86) under a deal offered by Vitality Insurance are complaining that their activity data is not being uploaded by the firm’s app.
  
Some customers who purchased the latest Apple Watch for £69 ($86) under a deal offered by Vitality Insurance are complaining that their activity data is not being uploaded by the firm’s app.
 
If certain levels of activity are not logged every month customers are charged extra for the device. The Apple Watch usually costs £369 in the UK. The firm said a small number of customers were affected and some had synced their devices incorrectly.
 
Vitality declined to give figures of how many had taken up the offer. Under the deal, customers who do not submit enough activity points per month have to pay an extra sum of up to £12.50 every time they fall behind. The contract lasts for two years.
 
Dietitian Anna Holt, from Winchester, said she and her partner had both taken up the offer, and while his data had synced, hers had not. She was advised to email screenshots of her activity data to the customer service team, she said.
 
“It defeats the object,” she said. “There seem to be a lot of others complaining about it online.” Overnight, her device suddenly started syncing, she said.
 
There is no issue with the Apple product itself. The Vitality UK app, which has a number of features for customers alongside tracking the Apple Watch data, has a large number of poor reviews on the app store and the majority of the 667 ratings it has received so far give it one star, the lowest score.
 
One reviewer complained in November that only steps and not running data were syncing while another said on 10 January that steps were only being recorded as zero. “I have to constantly email customer service to get them to update it manually,” they wrote. Another described the app as “well-intentioned but muddled, frustrating, constantly changing and usually not working”.
 
 
 

Apple sues chip-maker Qualcomm in China

Apple has filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm in China seeking 1bn yuan (£115m) in damages, claiming the chip maker has abused its market position.
  
Apple has filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm in China seeking 1bn yuan (£115m) in damages, claiming the chip maker has abused its market position.
 
Apple has also filed a second case alleging Qualcomm had broken the terms of a deal covering how Apple could use technologies it had licensed. Qualcomm said it was ready to defend its business practices in court.
 
The lawsuits come soon after US regulators sued Qualcomm, alleging that the firm was guilty of market abuse. In its legal papers, Apple said Qualcomm was using its dominant position as a supplier of communication chips for mobile phones to squeeze more cash from firms that use its technologies. In the second legal case, Apple said that Qualcomm had denied it access to chip technologies it was entitled to under the terms of an agreed licensing deal.
 
In a statement, Qualcomm said it had not yet seen all the details of the two cases. “These filings by Apple’s Chinese subsidiary are just part of Apple’s efforts to find ways to pay less for Qualcomm’s technology,” said Don Rosenberg, head lawyer for Qualcomm.
 
He added that Apple was offered terms and conditions that were drawn up in 2015 following a ruling by Chinese trade regulators that dictated how Qualcomm should deal with companies keen to use its modem chips. More than 100 Chinese firms signed up to these terms and conditions, he said, adding that Apple “refused to even consider them”.
 
“Qualcomm is prepared to defend its business model anywhere in the world,” said Mr Rosenberg.
 
Last week, the US Federal Trade Commission sued Qualcomm claiming it had abused its dominance in modem chips for mobile phones. The FTC said Qualcomm’s use of low licensing fees was helping it to enforce its monopoly. In response, Qualcomm said the FTC complaint was based on a “flawed legal theory” and “significant misconceptions” about the way the mobile industry worked.
 
Soon after the FTC filed its complaint, Apple followed up with its own legal action seeking $1bn (£793m) in rebates and accusing Qualcomm of overcharging it for chips. Qualcomm said it planned to fight both legal cases. The chip-maker has been hit with legal challenges and regulatory action around the world over the last few years. In December 2016, South Korean regulators fined it 1.03trn won (£698m) for breaking competition laws. In 2015, it paid a $975m (£775m) fine in China following an anti-trust probe. The European Commission has also accused it of anti-competitive practices.
 
 

Sky TV to go satellite dish-free in 2018

Sky is to offer a complete subscription television package without a satellite dish for the first time.

  
Sky is to offer a complete subscription television package without a satellite dish for the first time.
 
From 2018, people who cannot have a dish installed will be able to receive Sky over the internet instead. The company said the move would help it reach a further six million customers across Europe.
 
One analyst said the development was a “logical step”, but customers would need to live in an area with fast broadband speeds to benefit. “I don’t think Sky is giving up on other things but they see this as an opportunity,” said Toby Syfret, TV analyst at the Enders consultancy.”There are about two million households in the UK, mostly in dense urban areas, where people can’t put up dishes. If they can offer the full Sky experience without the need for a dish, that is broadening their offer. But there will be questions about which homes can get it. Not everybody has the necessary broadband speed.”
 
Sky is also facing competition from new rivals such as BT and TalkTalk, which deliver pay-TV over the internet. Sky already sells its Now TV streaming service, offering a small selection of television channels and a library of on-demand programmes over the internet. However, the company said its new dish-free option was designed to provide a more complete service.
 
Details of which channels will be carried, and whether the service will support ultra-high definition 4K broadcasts have yet to be decided. The company is currently in a dispute with broadcaster Discovery, which has threatened to remove its 12 channels from Sky on 1 February. It claims Sky does not pay a “fair price” for its channels – but Sky says Discovery’s threat is about “commercial self-interest”.
 
On Wednesday, the pay-TV giant reported a 9% fall in operating profits after paying more for broadcast rights to Premier League football matches.
 
 

Discovery in dispute with Sky, signals full blackout

Discovery Communications Inc’s UK unit said on Wednesday negotiations with Sky Plc for a new carriage deal reached an impasse over a price dispute, threatening a blackout of Discovery channels from Sky’s platform.
  
Discovery Communications Inc’s UK unit said on Wednesday negotiations with Sky Plc for a new carriage deal reached an impasse over a price dispute, threatening a blackout of Discovery channels from Sky’s platform.
 
All 12 channels in the Discovery portfolio would disappear from Sky and NOW TV after Jan. 31 if the dispute is not resolved, affecting more than 5.5 million people, Discovery Networks UK and Ireland said in a statement.
 
Sky finds the price expectations for the Discovery portfolio to be “completely unrealistic”, a representative for the pay-TV company said. “Discovery’s portfolio of channels includes many which are linear-only where viewing is falling. 

We have been overpaying Discovery for years and are not going to anymore.”

 
Sky has decided not to renew it’s contract on the terms offered by Discovery, the representative added. Discovery, which has TLC, Animal Planet, and Eurosport in its portfolio, said it is now paid less by Sky than it was 10 years ago.
 
 

Rumour that iPhone 8 won’t feature a home button

The next iPhone is unlikely to make an appearance before September, but the rumour mill has already well and truly swung into action.
 

  
The next iPhone is unlikely to make an appearance before September, but the rumour mill has already well and truly swung into action.
 
The newest handset, which Apple generally reveals in September and is likely to be called the iPhone 8, is expected to be the first iOS-running handset to do away with the circular home button entirely. Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst at research firm KGI Securities, has predicted the iPhone 8’s surface will consist of one large display, relocating the biometric fingerprint sensor from the rounded button and under the screen.
 
This new placement will “complement its full-screen (zero bezel) form factor design and to enhance transactions security,” he wrote in a report. As the Californian company has applied for numerous patents around facial recognition as a form of security enhancement, which it may combine with its current Touch ID fingerprint-scanning technology. “Judging by the bio-recognition patents that Apple has applied for, we believe it is leaning toward facial recognition technology rather than iris recognition,” he wrote. “However, we note that the technical challenges of facial recognition include: (1) algorithms; (2) hardware design; and (3) the build-out of a database for verification and authentication, which could be time consuming. As such, before Apple can fully replace the fingerprint system with facial recognition, a combination of the two steps of bio-recognition could be a valid solution for enhancing transactions security.”
 
However, it’s worth noting that many tech companies apply for patents around various technologies in order to prevent their rivals from using them, rather than planning to integrate them into their own product. What does this mean? If this turns out to be true, the iPhone 8 will be one big screen, without the borders, known as bezel. Currently, if you rest a finger on the bezel, the iPhone knows not to register it as a perceived action. This would be a significant design change, and probably the most significant since Apple introduced the two larger sizes of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, with displays sized at 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches respectively. How likely is this to be true? Out of the many iPhone rumours which surface each and every year, the removal of the home button is one of the most persistent.
 
t was long believed Apple was planning to remove it from the iPhone 7, which instead only dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack. Ming-Chi Kuo has a long history of correctly reporting both iPhone and iPad releases. He accurately predicted the release of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in 2015, the Apple Watch line up in 2014, the introduction of 3D Touch technology in the iPhone 6s in 2015, and made many other assertions which turned out to be correct.
 
It’s fairly likely the iPhone 8 will not feature a home button. The facial-scanning technology, however, might still be a few years off. Apple is proud of its Touch ID tech, especially due to its role within Apple Pay, so it’s unlikely to want to let it play second fiddle yet. Also, facial recognition in phones is still a bit ropey. Apple tends to hone and refine features which already exist in other handsets a couple of years afterwards, so this might no make an appearance in the iPhone 8. 
 
 
 
 

Lost your AirPods? Apple’s latest app update will help you track them down

When Apple unveiled its wireless AirPods in October, there were concerns about how easy it would be to lose the tiny devices.
  
When Apple unveiled its wireless AirPods in October, there were concerns about how easy it would be to lose the tiny devices.
 
Now the company is releasing an app update for the worried owners that will help them locate their missing earphones. The Find My iPhone app is due to receive an update that will let users locate their AirPods, if they are in Bluetooth range of any iOS devices.
 
The wireless earphones, which Apple released in November last year after a one-month delay, have garnered positive reviews. But some people expressed concerns about losing the tiny earphones, which cost $159 (£159) to buy.
 
Now the company is releasing an app update to allow users to find the gadgets if they ever get lost. If the AirPods are within range of any iOS devices signed into iCloud, that device’s location will be used to show the user where to start looking for the lost earphones. The app will also be able to play a sound on either or both AirPods to help users track down their location.  
 
But the feature will not work if the AirPods are further away than Bluetooth communication can stretch, which is generally around 33 feet (10 metres). 

This is likely to only work inside your house. 

 
The feature will be available on iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch with the software iOS 10.3 or later. Apple will begin releasing the feature to developers as part of the developer seed for iOS 10.3, which starts today. 
 
 
 
In a bid to help users keep track of their AirPods, a similar app called ‘Finder for AirPods’ was released last year, costing £3.99 ($3.99).
But Apple removed the app earlier this month, deeming it was ‘not appropriate for the App store’, although the reason remains unclear.
Finder for AirPods used the earphones’ Bluetooth signal to help users track them down.
It would tell users when they were warmer or colder, using the signal strength as a measure.
While this isn’t the most accurate tool to locate a small object, it was the only option available at the time without paying for new earphones.
Apple charges £65 ($69) to replace a lost AirPod, or £159 ($159) for a new pair. 
 
 
 

Android Pattern Lock system can be cracked in five attempts

Scientists have discovered that even having a security password enabled on your phone will not stop thieves from accessing your details.
  
Scientists have discovered that even having a security password enabled on your phone will not stop thieves from accessing your details.
 
Researchers from Lancaster University found that by filming a person’s finger movements as they use Android’s Pattern Lock system, it is possible to crack the code and access devices. The Pattern Lock system is used on millions of Android phones. Most of the passwords were cracked within five attempts.
 
A vulnerable system Android’s pattern lock means the device’s user has to draw a pattern by connecting dots in order to access the phone. Users have five attempts to draw the correct code before it stops you from using the handset.
 
There have long been web pages discussing the possibility of cracking the code however Professor Zheng Wang and his team from Lancaster University have managed to come up with a formula. The team conducted the research by filming people entering their passwords from two and a half metres away and then tried to guess the passwords. By using a computer generated system that contained around 120 individual patterns, they were able to crack the passwords in under five attempts in around 95 percent of cases.
 
Professor Wang said “The value of this kind of research is to inform designers of potential weaknesses to help combat crime such as theft of data and fraud.” Even the toughest passwords can be cracked The team found that the more difficult passwords were easier to crack while the easier passwords proved the toughest. Professor Zheng Wang and his team from Lancaster University found that the harder passwords were easier to crack. He said: “I think our research debunks many people’s belief that complex patterns provide stronger protection and in fact our study shows the opposite.”
 
Other researchers in the past have demonstrated the vulnerabilities of various authentication methods including pins and fingerprints. Professor Zheng Wang says all of the research suggests that a better authentication mechanism is needed to protect personal data. Legal muggings The research findings come after reports that police were conducting legal muggings in order to gain access to suspects’ mobile phones.
 
In December the BBC reported that Scotland Yard’s cybercrime unit had busted a fake credit card fraud ring by stealing a phone from a suspect and continuously swiping until they were able to download all of the data from his phone. The suspect was thought to be at the forefront of the fraud ring and was said to be using an iPhone to discuss activities with other members. A team of officers seized the suspect’s phone while he was on a call, allowing them access to his phone and bypassing the security settings.